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The Remaining Free Agent Starters, Emergency Depth, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News, Chicago Cubs Rumors

Quite a week at the Australian Open. Not only did Serena Williams beat her own sister in the women’s final, but also, in so doing, became the winningest female in Open Era Grand Slam history (23 Grand Slam titles). And then overnight, Roger Federer beat long-time rival Rafael Nadal in a five-set thriller, and extended his men’s record to 18 Grand Slam titles. Nadal, at 14, is tied for second. Coming into the match, Nadal had long had Federer’s number: Nadal led 23-11 in their career meetings, and was 9-2 in Grand Slam matches, including 6-2 in finals.

Federer, seen by many as the greatest men’s tennis player of all time, just came back from six months off for knee surgery. He didn’t even know if he was up for long Grand Slam matches coming into the tournament. So to then win as he just did, at age 35, is incredible. It was his first Grand Slam victory in five years.


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  • It’s unlikely we see too many more Cubs transactions between now and the start of the season. With the roster full (both from a 40-man perspective, and a covering-your-bases perspective), and with significant trades far less likely once Spring Training begins, you’d really only be looking at minor league depth signings at this point. To that end, as I have said in conjunction with the Brett Anderson signing, I do still very much hope the Cubs can find at least one veteran starting pitcher who has to settle for a minor league deal (with a big league split (i.e., yes, it’s a minor league deal, but if he makes the big league roster, he gets paid more than the Major League minimum)). You want to have that quality depth there in Spring Training just in case a couple guys break. Having Anderson in the fold helps, as the Cubs now have six “starting” pitchers, plus the Zastryzny/Frankoff/Buchanan/Brooks quartet of AAA depth starters. If the Cubs could manage to get a Colby Lewis, Doug Fister, Jorge de la Rosa type in the door on a minor league deal? I’d feel just a little more comfort about the emergency depth. (That is just to name a few of the remaining free agent starters, by the way, who might conceivably have to settle for minor league deals. There are no specific rumors there.) None of those guys is likely to be a great fifth starter for you at this point, but you’re really just looking for the flexibility to not have to roster a guy who might be slightly better than replacement level if worst came to worst.
  • You can see the full list of outstanding free agent starters here at MLBTR. There are actually a ton of interesting (again, if you’re looking strictly for extreme depth) names, including old friends Jason Hammel and Travis Wood (but I don’t think they’ll be settling for minor league deals).
  • Speaking of depth additions, maybe the Cubs aren’t among the top teams in on lefty Craig Breslow (to whom they were attached last week):

  • No mention of the Cubs there. I suppose it’s not necessarily an exhaustive list, but if three teams are “strong” on him, that might be that.

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  • A writeup on Ian Happ over at CSN worth checking out. I’d love to see the bat take another step forward in his second full season, especially now that he’s had a year to focus on second base, and has a year of experience adjusting to the long grind.
  • David Laurila’s Sunday Notes features a range of interesting tidbits, including some thoughts from briefly-a-Cub Edgar Olmos, whom the Cubs claimed a couple times off of waivers last offseason, but who was not in their system by the time the season started, as the Cubs traded him to the Orioles just before Spring Training ended. I’ll always remember Olmos as the guy who participated in Joe Maddon’s Respect Bald charity event, allowing fans to shave his head (full of long, took-a-while-grow-out hair) even though there was no certainty that he would still be with the Cubs for much longer. And then he wasn’t.
  • Jack Moore writes at The Hardball Times about the potential long-term damage done to baseball by its ever-increasing efforts to reduce signing bonuses, both for amateur talent and international talent. A section that resonated very strongly with me:

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But perhaps what I worry about most with the changes brought about in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement is a dilution of the game’s culture. The infusion of talent from across the world into major league baseball over the past three decades, whether from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, Japan and Korea, or from the newly opened territory of Cuba, has brought the kind of baseball played and celebrated in their countries and cultures. It has been crucial in keeping baseball fresh.

I fear that a CBA that puts a hard ceiling on the incomes of foreign players will deter top-level talents from leaving their domestic leagues to come play in the United States or from picking up baseball altogether. I fear it will stifle the growth of baseball in countries new to the game, like Brazil, which showed promise in the World Baseball Classic but may not have the financial incentives to draw athletes away from sports like soccer or basketball.


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  • Rian Watt at Vice Sports talks about how organizations self-evaluate, and how they proceed – realistically – through the various stages of the year. There’s a very-on-point side discussion about how the Cubs were in a unique position to pay more for Aroldis Chapman in July than most teams would. It’s something we discussed at the time, but seems to have escaped folks with every new Gleyber Torres ranking: the Cubs already knew in July that they were going to make the playoffs. That meant that there was no real risk that they’d send a haul for a rental reliever, only to see the highest and best value of that reliever squandered. That incentivizes a team to pay more than they would (for an elite rental reliever, specifically, I argued back then) if they were merely hoping to fight for a playoff spot.
  • They’re having fun, but Kyle Schwarber has a WRONG baseball opinion:

  • Remember when baseball players used to play in slam dunk contests? I actually do remember! Griffey, Bonds, Lofton, Sanders … fun stuff, man.

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  • Ooh la la, 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets are a deal of the day at Amazon. I don’t actually know much of anything about such things, but it sure sounds fancy!

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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor of Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.